This three-week series of sharing my author story, is in answer to Brent King’s question on my Ask Me Anything post: “I would be fascinated by your personal story…what fueled your passion for…writing and your desire to write.” Here is the author-side of that story. (You can read Part 1 here.)
I thought I wanted to be a speech therapist…
and a writer. (You know, on the side…because it’s so easy.)
I’d grown up watching videos of speech therapists working with my disabled older brother who passed away before I met him. I wanted to do that — to love on babies and teach them to make the right sounds. To somehow find connection with my brother through it.
But it’s not that simple.
I cried myself through my first college class because it didn’t fit the euphoric notions in my imagination. Speech therapy was hard and I realized I didn’t actually want to work with children. I liked children, but maybe not as a focus of my profession. Somehow this realization felt like a betrayal to my older brother.
For two years, I pushed through to see if I’d end up liking it. I didn’t and during those two years I realized how badly I wanted to be a writer. A serious writer.
I’d spend six to eight hours a day in coffee shops writing. (I’m still not sure how I did this with classes and homework.) My junior year, I finally confessed to my dad that I didn’t want to study speech therapy. I wanted to switch to creative writing — a major my school, Biola University, didn’t offer.
“Okay, find a new school with a good program.” What a dad!
I spent weeks looking up creative writing programs at different schools. I was still discovering what it meant to let God lead my life and this search was accompanied by confused prayers. I tried to switch schools, but God closed that door. I tried to switch majors, but He slammed that door too. I thought about quitting school, but my parents closed that door.
I was stuck, and it was God’s fault.
“Fine,” I told Him (not the best attitude.) “I’ll keep studying speech therapy. It’s clear You want me to stay in that major, so I’ll do my best. You’ve got to get me the grades and just don’t forget that I want to be a writer.”
Dad told me simply having a degree was still a huge accomplishment that could open many doors. I only had a year and a half to go anyway. Those years passed slowly and, to my astonishment, a gradual love for certain areas of speech therapy grew inside me. Maybe I did want to be a speech therapist. Meanwhile, I sent my rough draft book out to freelance editors (Not A Time to Die, but the first manuscript I ever completed. No…you’ll never get to see it 😉 ) and learned — again — that I still knew nothing about writing.
The red pen was hard to look at, especially when most of the comments were saying “Delete this character” and “This scene is pointless” (but in a nicer way.) Just as when I went to my first conference, I decided to learn instead of quit…which eventually led to my choice to be a freelance editor (a story for another day.)
In 2009, I graduated like people in the movies do — throwing my cap in the air and tearful goodbyes with the perfect group of friends. I had a diploma and I was free to write! Free to delve into books to my heart’s content! Never mind needing to find a job or a place to live or a way to eat. I’d survive off of paper and pens, thank you very much.
Oh, and God, by the way, I’m not going to graduate school. Nope! Not applying. Not going.
One year later, after a “supposed-to-inspire-and-jumpstart-my-writing-career” trip to England that resulted in more failures than successes, I sat in my first graduate class for speech therapy. In Missouri. People in my hometown called it Misery.
By this point in my spiritual life, I’d been completely shredded and sprinkled in a place called “rock bottom.” I was rediscovering God in a new location without a single acquaintance, continuing my education in something I didn’t love.
The message was clear: He wanted me in speech therapy, not writing.
So again, I took a deep breath and told God, “Okay, I don’t get it, but I’m here. Clearly this is more about obedience than my desires. You want me to get a Master’s Degree in speech therapy. Fine. I’ll do my best, you deal with the grades but…please don’t forget that I love writing.”
He didn’t forget. Our God never forgets.
Two months into my master’s program is when I found the idea for A Time to Die. Rather, it found me when God practically drowned me in vision. I’ll be sharing that story — the birth of A Time to Die — next week, which happens to be the one-year anniversary of my being offered a contract with Enclave Publishing (formerly Marcher Lord Press.)
- Sometimes to reach our dreams, we need to be patient. Okay, all the time. I learned that God values obedience higher than the accomplishments I could have achieve through my own steps forward.
- Learn from editing! I’ve been on both sides — having my work shredded and shredding other people’s work. The best response an author can have after receiving an edit back is to study the concepts behind the comments. Study the why behind the suggested changes. Don’t expect the editor to change your book for you, it’s your job to learn how to write better. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
- Just because God told me it wasn’t the time to write, didn’t mean He wanted me to quit. I fulfilled my end of my spiritual bargain — I did my best in my speech therapy classes…while writing down story ideas on my syllabi or scribbling out book scenes during a boring lecture.
Have you ever felt God telling you not to do something you love? (Or at least not yet?)
Or, maybe a more challenging question: Do you ever fear God will tell you to stop doing what you love?
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